The Witch’s March: History Fact #1

Before I forget, Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

With no promise on frequency, each week’s Thursday Picture posts will occasionally be a fun history fact that I learned while writing my current work-in-progress novel, The Witch’s March.  This is the first of a YA Fantasy series that starts during World War I.  More will come out on the book later.  For now, your first fact:

The main character, Hattie Price, is temporarily poses as a Hello Girl.  “Hello Girls” was a colloquial name for American female switchboard operators in World War I.  The group was formally known as ‘Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit’.  These switchboard operators were sworn into the U.S. Army Signal Corps.  The women left for Europe in March 1918 and were in many exchanges of the American Expeditionary Forces in France and Britain.  Despite the fact that they wore U.S. Army Uniforms and were subject to Army Regulations, they were not given honorable discharges, but were considered “civilians” employed by the military due to their gender.  It wasn’t until 1978 that Congress approved Veteran Status/Honorable discharges for the remaining “Hello Girls”.

Chapter 26: An Author’s Perspective on Why The Little Mermaid (2018) Failed As A Film

As someone who has been possibly too obsessed with mermaids ever since I was a child, using The Little Mermaid (2018 film) as my prime example of a bad movie makes me so sad. I had high hopes for this movie, and when I recently watched it I couldn’t help but dissect where I think they went wrong. It’s what led me to decide to write this particular blog. I’m going to start by giving you a quick example of how a great movie follows the structural path K.M. Wieland talks more in depth about utilizing in Structuring Your Novel Workbook: Hands-On Held for Building Strong and Successful Stories. Then, I’m going to go into a detailed explanation of things to look out for when writing a book or film that leave a sour taste in readers’ and viewers’ mouths.

First, let me start by saying I’m purely criticizing the writing/production of this movie. The actors (Poppy Drayton and William Moseley) did a great job. It was the lack of key plot points throughout the film, and moments that were undersold that made the movie as a whole feel entirely too anti-climatic. After going over the poor plot structure, I’ll then go into poor character utilization/development.

When structuring a story plot, a good base to use is always:

  1. Hook (introduces conflict) (1-5%)
  2. First Half of First Act (5-25%)
  3. First Plot Point (key point) (25%)
  4. Second Half of First Act (25%-50%)
  5. Half-Point (shifts plot in some way) (50%)
  6. Second Act (50-75%)
  7. Third-Plot Point (creates higher stakes for climax) (75%)
  8. Third Act (75-90%)
  9. Climax (biggest obstacle faced) (90-98%)
  10. Resolution (99-100%)

A good example of a movie that follows this structure is Gladiator.

  1. Maximus is offered a reward by Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and he says he wants to go home.
  2. He’s then asked by the dying Emperor to take control of Rome and give it back to the people, in spite of his son Commodus.
  3. Maximus, after learning that Commodus killed his father, vows to stop him and carry out Marcus Aurelius’s last wish.
  4. Maximus escapes execution only to be captured and sold to Proximo, who makes him a powerful gladiator.
  5. Maximus fully commits to his goal and burns all bridges by arriving in Rome and revealing his true identity to Commodus. This marks him as a hero to the Roman people.
  6. Maximus refuses to help the leader of the Senate as Commodus plots to destroy both of them.
  7. Maximus officially gives everything up and highers the stakes by escaping from Proximo.
  8. He leads his former troops against Commodus.
  9. Maximus faces his biggest obstacle that determines the fate of the film and has final battle with Commodus in the arena.
  10. Maximus is united with his family in death, and his body is carried away in honor by the new leaders of the Roman republic.

It’s these key moments that make both books and films into great stories. Likely it’s what you see in trailers because they’re the points filled with the most action. Not only did the plot didn’t follow this path, but the path it did take when it did have key points, it was the under-selling and lack of action within them that made the movie feel like it didn’t give enough to hold onto. I’m going to break The Little Mermaid (2018 film) into these 10 steps and dissect what the film did wrong. Pay attention to how the movie either skips a step or under-delivers, and the consequences.

  1. Starting with a cartoon animation to describe the history leading up to the film’s start isn’t a bad idea in itself. So why didn’t it work here? It was too long. I was already on my phone bored within the first few minutes of the phone because they took too much time talking about characters I ultimately wouldn’t care about – other than the Elizabeth, the name of this version’s Little Mermaid, but her story is so well known they didn’t need to waste so much time re-introducing it.The story then officially begins with an old grandmother telling her two granddaughters the story of the The Little Mermaid. I’ve seen this narration style done well in feel-good movies such as The Princess Bride and The Muppet Christmas Carol. I’m not sure if it’s that those movies utilized it as a comedic tool to keep the sometimes scary or dramatic plot appropriate for kids, but they did it right. It flowed with the movies and was a nice addition. In this one, it served no purpose. The only ‘reveal’ of any kind relevant to the plot was that the grandmother was actually the niece of Elizabeth’s love interest, Elle, and that she was a mermaid too. While this is a fun fact to know, I think it would’ve been smarter to have revealed that at the end of the movie in a specific scene, but I’ll get to that later. Basically, this introduction scene doesn’t lead up to the conflict any more than the too-long cartoon already did, so it feels wasted.
  2. Elle is introduced as having poor health. Cam, Elizabeth’s love interest, and Elle then leave so that he can pursue the story of the ‘Dr. Locke’s mermaid cure-all healing water’ for his publisher. This introduces the possibility that he is going on the off chance that it’s real and he can help his niece. This would be the ‘going off to Hogwarts’ moment for Harry Potter, except it’s not nearly as impacting. Why? I’ve only seen Cam and Elle for one scene at this point, so I don’t feel connected to them. Then, once they’re journey begins, Cam begins by meeting the patients that have claimed to be saved from their ailments but clearly aren’t. This point in itself isn’t bad, but only not as impacting as it could have been thanks to the lack of earlier set up.
  3. Cam and Elle then visit the circus. Aside from the brief interaction with the fortune teller (that I’ll go more into when talking about the characters later), this delivery was also well done. The key realization that a mermaid is real hits the characters, despite Cam’s skepticism. It’s immediately revealed that she also has legs and that something greater is going on. There’s an introduction of several characters with high potential. Unforunately, the characters are under-delivered later, but within the scene it was mostly pivotal for the first-plot point.
  4. Cam and Elle run into Elizabeth in the woods. This is when the fact that Elle might possibly have the heart of a mermaid is introduced. While this fact in itself is really cool, it was used poorly throughout the film. The fortune teller again warns Cam against being around Elle when she finds him sneaking around the circus. It’s then that he sees where Locke keeps Elizabeth’s soul. There’s also then a large boat scene that helps build our relationship with the characters.
  5. It’s when Cam and Elizabeth jump off into the ocean that the plot dramatically shifts. After sharing some chemistry-filled moments, Cam finally learns that Locke, the villain, has her soul. And Cam wants to help her get it back. Notice how I’m just now mentioning the villain’s name? While I understand, in some plots there’s an edge given by not revealing the villain too soon, that’s not what this is. That’s that we haven’t had a clear ‘this is what the heroes doing to save the day’ moment until now. Here I’m going to mention something else: there’s never a distinct moment where Cam starts to believe she’s actually a mermaid. He was still skeptical when she explained how she had legs from low tide back when they met up in the woods. He needed to have put it together when he saw Elizabeth’s soul being held by the villain, but there was never a look of “holy shit, this is real”. Now, he’s seeing her as a mermaid, and he’s just talking to her like he always accepted it.
  6. The third plot point starts when Cam gets home and realizes Elle has been kidnapped. Cam finds her and after little challenge, rescues her. At this point, we know that Locke wants her because she has a mermaid heart and that’s special. We know that somehow he’s been using Elizabeth’s heart for power up to this point and that’s why he’s been keeping her. When Elizabeth is in her cell, though, Locke tells her that after he has Elle, he’ll never need her again. But, why? If mermaid hearts make you stronger, wouldn’t having two theoretically still be stronger than having one? What is so special about having a human with a mermaid heart? None of that is every explained. We know it’s important, but not really much past that, which ends up making us confused again.
  7. The climax begins as they get Elizabeth’s soul and save her mid-show thanks to the fortune teller stopping time. Cam, Elle, the fortune teller, and the wolf-man begin their quest to get Elizabeth to the ocean before Locke gets to them. I need to comment on both her and the wolf-man. In this climax they’re revealed to be super strong. The wolf-man beats his longtime tormentor and the fortune teller is revealed to be a powerful witch that was hoping to learn from Locke. She even stands toe-to-toe to Locke to help hold him off. But I knew literally nothing about them until this point. Sure, I saw the wolf-man was treated poorly briefly and that the fortune teller cared about Elizabeth, but that was it. So why are they in the arguably most important scene as major characters? It left such a disconnect. I’m not saying to take them out of the climax – they were strong additions. There should’ve just been more introduction in earlier scenes. The action of this climax (although with an obviously low budget for special effects) was rather good. Each character had their moment, and I would’ve appreciated it more had there been earlier bonding moments. Elizabeth makes it to the water, and Elle, who had been having a cough attack and couldn’t breathe from her health problem, is healed when Elizabeth takes her underwater. This is the point that I think Elle should’ve been revealed as a mermaid. It would’ve added more impact to the final climax moment than lousily revealing it through the ‘narrator’ portion of the movie with Elle as the grandmother. Cam also just kisses Elizabeth, and then supposedly never sees her again. That feels like a very anti-climatic end to an anti-climatic romantic subplot.
  8. The plot is instead resolved with the grandmother coughing. Now revealed as Elle, she’s seen swimming as a mermaid with Elizabeth. Again, while a time lapse could work as a resolution if done well, this felt like an ‘oh cool’ moment rather than a satisfying ending.

Chapter 25: Hearing From Your Readers

The hilarious screenshot you see above is from my Sarah in regards to The Freedom Game.

First I’d like to say please excuse my friend’s lovely vocabulary.  She has a wonderfully colorful mouth and the drastic inability to sugarcoat.  That second fact is what made me so beyond nervous when she originally purchased my novel.  If she didn’t like it, she wasn’t going to be able to sugarcoat it.  I would know.  While that is of course valuable to hear back honest feedback, it had me wriggling nervous since I had dedicated so much to this book.

Instead of her attempting but failing to not hurt my feelings and not enjoying then novel, however, I received texts like this.  Not only this, but I received a long snapchat video of her reading around the climax.  The video consisted of her yelling at me for what certain characters had done, and her desire to need to know what happens paired with the fear to read on in case it’s not the ending she wants to happen.  Her cheeks got red, her voice got loud – and she was midshift at her job without a care of the people staring at her.  That right there honestly made me tear up like a wimp.

But honestly, what more could an author want?  Than someone that into your story and that invested in your characters and what happens to them?  She felt betrayed by characters when they did not-so-great things, and then sounded like a proud mother when they did something shockingly heroic.

No matter if sales aren’t where you want them and marketing is more expensive than you’d like, experiences like these are what make writing so much more than worth it.

Chapter 24: Runaway

Coming to you November 28th, my latest novel: Runaway.

If you’re following the wonderful Bryony Leah, you were able to see this cover before any one else from our interview.  I’ve already talked about this novel a little there, and I want to do things a bit differently.  Normally, this is the part where I’d share the back blurb to tell you more about my novel and why you should read it.  I won’t do that today.  Instead, I’ll leave you with very little.

Dorothy Glass is not a hero.  She’s more than one-hundred confirmed kills.

Emil Rhodes doesn’t love her.  He doesn’t even like her.  But there’s something about her…

This place isn’t supposed to be real.  It’s supposed to be child’s fiction.  It’s beautiful.  It’s magical.  It’s everything Dot’s ever wanted life to be.  Until it’s not…

The Write Perspective: Kill Them All

PURCHASE HERE TODAY!!!

Book Description:

They messed with the wrong supervillain.

Valentina Belmonte walked away from her supervillain career years ago. Having peaked at the top of the national Most Wanted List, she now lives a quiet life with her husband and daughter, enjoying the Florida sun. Sure, she has to curb her criminal instincts to stay under the radar, but her family is worth it.

Until they’re attacked. With her husband—a retired superhero and the closest thing she has to a conscience—hospitalized and on the brink of death, she’s done playing nice. She doesn’t know who attacked them or why, but she’ll wreak bloody destruction until she finds out. Nobody does revenge like a supervillain, but as her single-minded pursuit grows more violent, it threatens the only family she has left…

Good for people who enjoy: strong female protagonists, morally grey characters, strong mother/daughter relationships, strong action scenes, complex handicapped characters

Review:

As an author, I pride myself in being able to foresee the plot’s of movies and books.  Often when everyone else is going ‘Oh wow!  I didn’t see that coming!’ I’m sitting there pridefully quiet because I DID see it coming.  Even in shows/books like Game of Thrones, all of my theories have been at least 80% correct.  But with this book, even when I THOUGHT I knew what was going to happen or what the plot twist would be…. boy was I wrong.

Going into the main character, Val.  Each book in this series rotates between the point of view of Dave, the ex-superhero husband, and Val, the ex-supervillain wife.  I’ve always loved the way that Kristen completely changes the language between the two, making it very obvious we’re in two veeeeery different people’s heads.  In Villainous, we saw how straightforward Val’s thinking is compared to Dave’s.  Her moral compass has been skewed by marrying someone as angelic as Dave, but she is still very much a supervillain when it comes down to it.  I don’t want to spoil in case any of you go back to purchase books 1-3 upon reading this review, but she does some things that make me go DAMN GIRL!

Moving forward with this book, it opens to a scene reminding us just how powerful Val really is.  She’s a telepath, and she’s not afraid to dig into anyone’s mind if it benefits her.  If she wants you to do something, you’ll do it.  No amount of false bravo can protect you from her.

We get to see more of the Prophet King, who’s an active supervillain just as complex as Val.   He has his own goal separate from Val’s, and it’s interesting to see how the two interweave with one another throughout the plot.  With the power to see the future, but not two feet in front of him, it’s interesting to see how is strengths collide with his weaknesses.

And let’s not forget about poor Elisa.  Last book we read about her and her friends being taken hostage in an amusement park courtesy of one of Dave’s ex-arch nemeses.  This time it’s Val by her side, and boy is there a difference.  Firstly, I’d like to commend the beautiful moments between Val and Elisa.  Yes, the two come from a very complicated past together, but they are still mother and daughter.  Kristen is famous for giving us maybe one scene of happiness between characters before she rips our heart out and stomps on it.  However, we’re lucky enough to see a few adorable conversations between the two sprinkled throughout all of the chaos.    Secondly, I love how Kristen handles the relationship between Elisa and her girlfriend.  It’s not just thrown in there so she can say “Look I have an LGBTQ+ character!”  Things aren’t perfect between the two aren’t perfect, and it’s a real relationship.  We get some of that angsty teen drama with the beautiful addition of Val giving Elisa some motherly advice (Yay for parents supporting their children no matter what!)  .

Val is classy, albeit evil.  She’s definitely a character I want to read more about.  Did I mention we finally get to read about the history of how she was burned?  And that’s not the only scar in this story… This book is filled with twists and turns that even The Prophet King can’t see coming.  Nobody is safe.  Everyone is a suspect.  And Val’s solution?  Kill Them All.

BUY HERE NOW!!!